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Nochella, April 17: Of Monsters and Men and rude attendees

Of Monsters and Men at The Cosmopolitan (COURTESY PHOTO: ERIK KABIK)
Of Monsters and Men at The Cosmopolitan (COURTESY PHOTO: ERIK KABIK)

We don't normally like to do this, but this is one of the rare occasions where it has to be said. To the audience for Of Monsters and Men: You're a dick. 

Maybe that's not fair. After all, it wasn't the entire crowd. The people who were really there for the bands (Local Natives opened), the people who sang along and made sure to be either dead center or toward the back next to the auxillary speakers to hear better, were just fine. But it was the others, those who knew one song at best (OMAM's "Little Talks," the one with the sick trumpet line, but we'll get to that), pushed through people with two drinks in their hands, drunk and shouting to each other, paying zero attention to the music, that really screwed the pooch on this one.

At first we assumed we were just being grumpy because it was, by April-in-Las-Vegas standards, a bone-chilling and blustery night up on the Boulevard Pool deck. But it was when OMAM frontwoman Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir (what? Awesome!) asked the crowd, "Do you want to hear a love song?" that told all. The pool's response was a whisper at best, drowned out by the obnoxious din spreading like a fertilized fungus down to the pool floor.

Of Monsters and Men wasn't necessarily the most energetic I've seen. It didn't capture a crowd the way, say, Yeah Yeah Yeahs did on Saturday, nor does it have as many recognizable songs. But it wasn't boring, either. The Icelandic sextet arranged itself in a straight line across the stage, positioning drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson on the front line, parallel to the edge of the stage, so you could see everything he did, which included playing accordion. Keyboardist Ragnhildur Gunnarsdóttir regularly jumped onto her bench and played trumpet, towering over the band, absolutely destroying that horn line in "Little Talks." Hilmarsdóttir sang to the cameraman at her feet the way a rapper might, which is actually pretty charming from a tiny Icelandic twentysomething. All were successful moves -- and all were mostly (you can't ignore that trumpet line) lost on the mostly inattentive crowd. It's tough to look around a crowd with that "dude yes, this song!" expression and be met with droopy, dead eyes, even during "King and Lionheart," "Mountain Sound," and "Lake House." Which really lamed up the whole experience.

Opener Local Natives were a different story. Something about the night's opening band just didn't resonate, at least not unequivocally. Maybe it's because I really dig them, especially their 2010's Gorilla Manor, so I expected it to be the best show of the last two years. But I did not get that. Not to say it wasn't good. The harmonies were on point, which clearly blew away the attentive portion of the audience, given the cold, the size of the stage and the outdoor environment, all of which can shipwreck most vocal cords.

The band opened with "You & I," the opening track from the latest release, Hummingbird. Drummer Matt Frazier nailed the drum-centric second song (and Hummingbird single), "Breakers." But it wasn't until the band dug into the Gorilla Manor tracks that the audience really responded (I agree with you, audience, that album is better). And from there, the set was a blast: "Warning Sign"! "Shape Shifter"! "World News"! "Airplanes"!

Something was still missing. Maybe Local Natives were tired. Or cold like the rest of us. Or maybe it was the presentation, the stage presence, which was lacking given how spread out the musicians were across that expansive stage. But they had a redeeming moment. At the very end of the encoreless set, they played "Sun Hands," a favorite from the first album, with the chillingly kick-ass, drums-and-gang-vocals-only chant "And when I can feel with my sun hands!/I'll promise not to lose her again!" And that pause? With the break afterward? I said good gravy. Good save, you Los Angelenos.

Maybe next time it'll be warm enough and the crowd will spend the show enjoying the music and not figuring out ways to stay warm. And maybe, hopefully, those drunk, shouting, backs-to-the-stage attendees will get tickets for Marquee Nightclub inside the casino instead.